Usability Basics for Every Website

Emily Creech - March 12, 2009

Within the Internet Marketing industry, it seems that many people have one area where they excel or focus their efforts. Whether yours is primarily SEO, SEM, Design or Analytics, there is one common theme among all of these – conversions.   To go a bit further, there is another common theme – user experience.   After all, is a visitor to a website going to convert if they have a bad experience?   Not likely.   A better user experience can help keep visitors on your site longer, which can lead to more conversions.   Here are a few usability basics to take into consideration:

  1. Clean design.   Take a look at your website, or better yet, have someone else take a look at your website. Is it cluttered?   Does the design augment the call(s) to action? Are there background images that are distracting?
  2. Consistent navigation.   Your website should have an intuitive navigation that is consistent throughout the website.   Most visitors expect to find the navigation menu at the top or left side of the page.   A consistent footer navigation on every page as well as breadcrumb trails that help the visitors to identify where they are on the website, are also important components of a website’s usability.
  3. Focused, quality content. Two metrics that are often evaluated, as they should be, are a) the amount of time visitors spend on a website and b) the bounce rate.   Are the visitors finding what they’re looking for on your site?   To improve these two metrics, make sure that your site’s content is worthy of the visitors’ attention.   If you have a blog, this can be a great way to create new and interesting content for your visitors.
  4. Engaging content. Is there a way for visitors to engage with your website and brand? Do you have comments enabled on your blog? Are photos, videos and/or digital magazines appropriate for your website?   Is there a way for users to share this type of information within social networks?   With the growth of social networks, this is something that you may want to consider.
  5. Eliminate dead ends. Even if the user has found what they are looking for, never leave them at a dead end. Always offer something else that may be of interest. If you have an ecommerce website, this can be an opportunity for them to make another purchase or research other products.   If your site features PDF documents, consider having them open in a new tab or window so you don’t take the visitor completely off of the website. Most PDF documents do not have navigation manus, so users may abandon the site after reading the information if they are not sure how to get back to the main website.
  6. Give them a reason to return.   Repeat visitors are a good indication that they found that they were looking for the first time, or the information on the website was valuable to them.   With a bad user experience, you are certainly not going to be able to capitalize on repeat visitors and additional conversions or revenue that they could bring.  

The user experience of any website is critical to the conversion process.   Each website should meet the needs of the user, and there are many things that users simply expect to find.   If your website lacks a few of these essentials, it is likely that you’ll see the impact in your conversion rates.   So, take this opportunity to think about your website.   Are there areas that could be improved upon?

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